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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all,

I just bought a new 14" iBook for the lab, and thought I really aught to report on it, before some student spirits it away. This is my first quicky ehMac product review article, and if the response is good, I might do a few more.

So to the computer...

First of all, bang off, the white casing on the outside is much thicker than I thought it would be, but that's not a bad thing. It seems much more solid than the old clamshell iMacs, but is missing the rubber bumper that student-proofed the first generation of iBooks. The solid metal hinge is much appreciated, and looks like it would be a handle, but isn't.

On the left-hand side, we have two USB ports (which is on the wrong side for right-handed mouse users), firewire, ethernet, a modem, analog monitor video-out and a headphone port. You have to buy an accessory to use composite video or S-video, which I thought should have been included. Paying an extra $30 is a hassle. Still missing: audio-in port (which is sadly missed), PMCIA slot (which isn't really necessary) and swappable drives. The CDRW combo drive is a pop-out deal which always seems to get caught up in the power cable, which is right beside the door. Why not use a slot-loading system, like on the TiBook? Expense? The CD-RW feels a bit flimsy and perhaps breakable where it is, but that's just my opinion. It's really not that bad - I just think a slot-loading drive would be nicer.

Opening up the computer, you're immediately blinded by a whiter-than-white keyboard. I use my TiBook a LOT, so the color contrast was startling. I don't know what Apple's new fetish with THX-1138 is, but I hope they realize that white things get dirty really quickly, especially keyboards. On top of this, they made the keys matte-coated to collect even MORE dirt. Other than that, the keys felt good, as they do on all Apple laptops. The trackpad is a bit bigger, and the click button is huge - about an inch wide, and almost twice as wide than the one on the TiBook. I assume this is because the 14" iBook is wider, and they have to take up space somehow... but I figure that it would be better served by making the touchpad bigger...

And wouldn't it be great if Inkwell technology worked with trackpads? How hard would that be to get working? Sigh. I guess it has more to do with touch-sensitive technology (pens don't work with capacitance-based touchpads) than anything else, but it just seems natural that a touchpad looks like a mini-Wacom tablet, no?

The 1024-by-768 screen is just right. I always thought the 12" screen was way too small for OSX, and this computer proves it. The colors are strong and bright. Ten-point text in Word is still illegible on the LCD, but that's just a function of how Quartz handles the text, and has little to do with the design of the iBook.

The 700Mhz G3 processor handled OSX with aplomb, at least on the surface. The 16MB Radeon card made quartz rendering much faster, and the computer felt very snappy - even snappier than my TiBook, which uses the cruddy Quartz-Extreme-incompatible Rage 128 card in it. Crunching numbers is still slower - Photoshop tests put it way behind most current Apple iron, but this is supposed to be a student's computer, which is still a lousy excuse for hanging on to an outdated processor. I still don't know why the G3 hasn't been put out to pasture and replaced by the G4 yet. The iBook is the only place in Apple's 2002 lineup that still uses it. Is the G3 still cheaper, even though the G4 has been out for so long? Or is Apple just trying to artificially stratify it's high-profit-margin TiBook line (for the prosumer) from it's iBooks? Hmmm... there's similar hardware in a CRT eMac, and it's almost fifteen hundred dollars cheaper, with a G4 processor.

The iBook has most of the software included with the iMacs. Most of the standards are there, like FaxSTF, the requisite Pangea Software title (in this case, Otto-Matic), Deimos Rising (thanks, Ambrosia), pixelINhance and IBM's World Book. The iMac, on the other hand, has Quicken thrown in as well. Why not on the iBook too? Just wondering...

I bought the model configured with 256MB of RAM. I know I need at least 384 MB to run OSX nicely, so I bought an additional 256MB of RAM. Opening the iBook is similar to opening previous iBooks, where you pull two tiny tabs in the keyboard and it flips back. However, in this case, to get to the RAM, you need to remove two #00 phillips screws. The nasty thing is that nobody ever has one of those damned screwdrivers around. It's one of the tiniest screwdrivers you can find, and I had to go and buy a special kit from Canadian Tire. OK, fine, no big deal, but it's still a hassle, and I've never needed that stupid screwdiver before on any of my Macs. I guess it's better than the #9 torx I needed to find for my old PB165c, but a better system would have been nice.

So I get the RAM cover off. Suprise! There's already a 128MB chip there. So to upgrade the stupid thing, you need to throw out 128MB of good RAM. Would it have been so horrible to put a second slot in there? My TiBook has got two of them, so I wouldn't need to get rid of an existing chip. That really annoyed me, but of course, if I read the specs, I would have seen it. Caviat emptor, I guess.

So that's it. It's a fine addition to the stable, and I'm tickled pink that it's not shaped like a purse. It still has some failings, but I admit, I'm spoiled with my TiBook, and that's what sets the gold standard, as far as I'm concerned. But to summarize:

Good things:
-Nice case
-Decent screen size
-Radeon card makes OSX.2 work very nicely

Bad things:
-still fat and heavy
-Super-white dirt-magnet keyboard.
-Flimsy CDRW
-retarded RAM configurations
-still expensive compared to dearth of consumer-level PC laptops with similar configurations (I paid $3000 plus tax)... still... ugh... Windows... grraaggh... never... :(

-SJ.
 

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Hello,

A reasonable review. I just have a few comments:

1. Don't thank Ambrosia for Deimos Rising as they still won't allow you to update the bundled version. Their new verions 1.01 and 1.02 have various bug fixes, enable cheat codes, and have built in OSX support for gamepads. I've complained a bunch of times and they say they're working on it, but I don't think they are. (And, yes I know that there are only 5 people at Ambrosia, but it has been a few weeks since the 1.02 update occured and even longer since 1.01.)

2. I don't find the price of the machine all that more than a comparable Windoze machine. I also factor in the cost of less aggrevation, which actually makes the iBook more inexpensive.

3. I think the G4 may cause excessive heat problems in the current version of the iBook, but I'm not 100% sure on that.

4. I don't think average consumer sees any 'real' benefit to having a slot-load combo drive. Plus that may take away from the lure of the PowerBook.

5. You might get #3 and #4 when the iBook is totally redesigned, which I think will occur sometime in 2003. Of course, this would be when the PowerBook receives a major update as well.

6. I have the same configuration as you, so I hope you enjoy your machine as much as I like mine.

James
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hmm. Cost.

A quick check here:

A Dell (ugh) Smartstep 250, with a 2.2Ghz P4 (arguably much faster than a 700 Mhz G3), 15-inch screen (1 inch bigger), DVD combo drive, 40 GB HD (10 GB bigger), ATI Radeon with 32MB of DDR SDRAM (16 MB more), ethernet, modem, swappable bays, and 8 pounds (much heavier) (is $2600. Add firewire in a card for about $200, if you want it. Plus shipping, that's $3000 CDN. And you don't need to buy a stupid composite cable for an extra $30.

Of course, you can get it cheaper dealing in-town, or with rebates. That was a 5 minute web search, and now I feel all dirty.
http://www.dell.com/ca/en/dhs/products/model_inspn_inspn_250n.htm

I used to use the argument that iTools more than made up for the cost, but I can't anymore, thanks to Apple :mad: , but whatever. My point is that you can't get into a price war with PCs because you'll lose. Every time.

We, as Mac users, will pay a premium to be Mac users. Usually it's about 10 to 15% more than comperable PC hardware, but we gladly absorb the cost because of the PC aggravation factor. Apple does the innovating. Apple spends on the R&D. That's why they cost a lot (sometimes thousands) more, and I'm OK with that. After all, once the money is spent, you have to live with it. Lugging a 9-pound laptop running Windoze isn't worth the savings, but that's what you're up against when explaining why you have to get a Mac.

-SJ.
 

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Just a note. If you are using an iBook why would you need a mouse. I have a Powerbook and everytime I sit down at a computer with a mouse I have to double tack for the mouse. The track pad it one of the many nice things about the Powerbook, iBooks. So, why would it matter if the USB ports are on the left or the right. :confused:
 

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I think the extra 10-15% is worth it. Once I configure my Mac, hats it for the next 5 years. The only troubles I ever had were installing OS upgrades and that wasn't much of a problem.
Mac's are the best out there period and I'll pay for quality and piece of mind.
Robert :confused:
 

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<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR> mclenaghan:

The track pad it one of the many nice things about the Powerbook, iBooks. So, why would it matter if the USB ports are on the left or the right. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Not meaning to steal Spanish Joe's thunder but I use a Kensington Mouse in a Box Optical Pro with my Pismo. I bought this after a severe case of RSI developed in my (left) hand. The mouse has made all the difference to me. I now happily compute and no longer get RSI. The trackpad was definitely the cause of my pain. I first experienced it with my previous PB (a 1400) and it carried over and worsened with the Pismo. For me, anyway, trackpads are not the best of all possible input devices.
 

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Just a quick note to mclenaghan, most people do like mouses because the are more accurte. and if you didn't know already, track pads are very hard on the finger that you use. It can hurt the muscle seriously after long use of the track pad.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Is it mouses or mice? I never knew which.


Islander - I found the exact opposite. I had wicked CTS, and I found that a trackpad helped out tremendously. It's one of the reasons that I use my TiBook at work almost exclusively.

The only reason I mention the position of the USB port is beacuse one of my students complained about it. I told him to use the trackpad. He was just used to the garbage input devices that PC laptops have (the keyboard nipple or the touch-sensiive dragpad) and he was a bit gunshy. Matter of fact, he came in today and told me that the trackpad was very comfortable, and didn't need the puck mouse I gave him.

-SJ.
 

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I think the mouse ports should be on the right.

Not to offend the southpaws out their but the black (clear) Apple pro-mouse cord is sometimes not long enouph to wrap around the iBook and be used properly.

I travel with a Powerbook and use the trackpad in the Car, in a customers, and any time for short stuff. Buy plug in the mouse in the Hotel and stuff.

A Mouse is simply faster IMHO.
 

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When I sit down at my desk, I plug in my keyboard, which has a Logitech mouse and a Wacom tablet plugged into it. While I find that I plit my mouse time evenly between the mouse and the trackpad, I find that more often than not I type on the laptop's keyboard, as opposed to the pro keyboard sitting on the keyboard tray below it. Although for games, I always use the mouse and keyboard. ;)

I have the configuration previous to the one reviewed above (iBook 14" 600 MHz)

--PB
 
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